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NHC 2013 – Philadelphia, PA

Last week was the 35th Annual National Homebrewer’s Conference. This year hosted by the great beer town of Philadelphia. We (or I, George) was lucky enough to attend, and am very happy to report back on the overall experience. The location was perfect, the seminars were fun and informative, and beer tourism was phenomenal, and in fact, really made the trip for me.

Philly boasts some of the coolest beer bars & beer-centric restaurants you could wish for. We arrived on Tuesday, two nights before the conference began, and our first order of business was to visit Monk’s Cafe, a cozy Belgian-beer-lover’s paradise. In fact, Michael Jackson commented that it was America’s best Belgian beer bar, and many would argue that this is still true. There certainly isn’t anything quite like it in San Diego, although if you combined the tap list at Small Bar, with the bottle list at Hamilton’s Tavern, you would get kinda sorta close. You’d be missing moules frites, however (sad face). There is also a good offering of German beer bars in the city. Bru Carft, and Brauhaus Schmidtz being the two we had the pleasure of checking out. Again, we simply don’t have these sort of options in San Diego. Occasionally you can count on a solid Kolsch at Tiger!Tiger!, or Blind Lady Ale House, but there aren’t any places with the consistent selection of these Philly beer spots.

Food wise, we enjoyed the above mentioned spots, but other standouts included The Farmer’s Cabinet. Rag time piano, lots of wood, and an ecclectic beer list featuring many fantastic Northern European breweries (Haandbryggeriet of Norway, for instance). A large group of fantastic homebrewers with large hearts enjoyed an outstanding meal there.

The conference itself offered a solid variety of topics to satisfy the interests of any homebrewer. Topics included, sensory analysis (presented by San Diego’s own Kara Taylor of White Labs), Cider (again, San Diego great, Chris Banker of QUAFF), hops, hops, oh and one that talked a little about hops, mash chemistry, building a walk-in cooler, a “going pro” panel, mead and chocolate pairing, and more. You can view the details/presentations from previous years here. As of this posting 2013’s notes are not available yet, but they will be shortly.

Many of the seminars include samples of beer, but there are many other opportunities to fill your glass throughout the weekend. The Pro Brewer’s Night is a great opportunity to sample pro beers from nearby and from around the country. Club Night is the zaniest of all, and is essentially a rager done in all the nerdy glory that only homebrewers can accomplish. Clubs from near and far offer samples of their brews for all to try.

The weekend is wrapped up with a banquet, which includes the awards ceremony for the National Homebrewer’s Competition. Rogue provides the beers, and Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton creates the menu.

All-in-all I highly recommend making the trip out to NHC every year if you can. Next years will be hosted by Grand Rapids, MI. So we will see you there.

My account of the weekend is a summed up version of an all out action packed visit, so please include any of your favorite moments below.